The Small Group and the Vine

  • Tony Payne
  • 15 November 2018

A 5-week video course for training small group leaders to understand the purpose of small groups and what their role is as leader, and to be able to carry out the key aspects of that role. Course materials consist of a workbook for each participant, and access to the video segments.


  • Introduction and welcome
  • Session 1: Understanding small groups
  • Session 2: Understanding your role as leader
  • Session 3: Leading people to God’s word
  • Session 4: Leading in prayer
  • Session 5: Persevering with people
  • Appendix 1: Two simple frameworks for Bible reading
  • Appendix 2: How to be in a small group
  • Appendix 3: How to use pre-written Bible studies
  • Appendix 4: Help your home group grow closer together
  • Appendix 5: Ezra and the principle of de-termination
  • Appendix 6: Prayer in the small group
  • Appendix 7: More thoughts about prayer in small groups
  • Appendix 8: Praying out loud: practical tips
  • Appendix 9: The discouraging problem of poor attendance
  • Appendix 10: Making hard phone calls

Introduction and welcome

Welcome to The Small Group and the Vine.

Our expectation is that you are probably new to leading a small group, and this course is your preparation for that exciting and rewarding role. But it’s also possible that you might be an experienced leader who has decided to do the course as a bit of a refresh or reboot. Either way, it is good to have you along, and we hope and pray that this is a really useful investment of your time.

We want to mention a few little things before we get started:

  • As you will see, in this course we use the phrase ‘moving people to the right’ as a shorthand way of describing the progression people make as disciples of Christ. It’s a shorthand based on a diagram we use to describe how people grow as they become disciples and are transformed more and more into maturity in Christ. In our diagram, the goal is to move people to the right. The phrase is not intended in any way as a description of people’s political leanings! We hope this isn’t the case, but it could be that in your context even once you explain the intended meaning of the phrase in this course, it just has too much political baggage for you to use it as helpful shorthand. If so, you just need to use your own memorable shorthand way of talking about that process of growing people as disciples. For example, in the videos you’ll notice we use ‘moving towards maturity’ or ‘moving towards Christ’ interchangeably with ‘moving to the right’.
  • You’ll notice that we are encouraging you to do a bit of ‘homework’ in the form of reading Tony’s book, The Thing Is (Matthias Media). This isn’t to help Tony make some extra pocket money (he doesn’t get any royalties). It’s because the book goes into more depth than we can here about the ‘big picture’ of what God is doing in our world, what he’s doing in people, and the part we play in that divine plan. It’s only a short book, but we think it will be a very helpful supplement to this short course. In fact, if you go to you’ll see that we have a very special offer for you.
  • We’ve added a whole lot of bonus input for you in the appendix section of this workbook. We hope you’ll benefit from some of the articles there about the practicalities of leading a small group. Up that back end of the book we’ll also tell you about some of the other resources Matthias Media has available to help you.
  • We also want to acknowledge our indebtedness to Colin Marshall for his insightful thinking over many years on effective small groups, including his book Growth Groups (Matthias Media). If you want more guidance on your role as a small group leader, we certainly recommend his book very highly. It contains 15 very useful training topics for small group leaders, and can be used as further follow-on training for those doing this course.
  • Our thanks to the many people who gave us feedback and suggestions on the course content, and special thanks to Bill Schotten for his expertise in shooting the video and attempting to make us look good on screen.

But enough of the preliminaries. Let’s get on with the course.

Tony Payne and Marty Sweeney

DVD Credits

Course content and presentation: Tony Payne and Marty Sweeney

Video production and editing: Five Stone Film Works, Ohio

Animations: Bryce McLellan

Small group members:

  • Jason Crank
  • Mary Lou Crank
  • Laura Denny
  • Philip Denny
  • Jon Drokin
  • Sarah Drokin
  • Chris Drombetta
  • Chase Evans
  • Maria Fuentes
  • Charlann Glenn
  • John Glenn
  • Phil Goodyear
  • Beth Harrell
  • Rebecca Halcomb
  • Ed Havaich
  • Jeanette Hess
  • Preston Hess
  • Jeff Ickes
  • Bernie Mager
  • Matt Mager
  • Sue Marlowe
  • Erin Mellinger
  • Sue Miller
  • Jeff Moliterno
  • Natalie Moliterno
  • Nick Nolfi
  • Frank Shevock
  • Mike Shevock
  • Betsy Slater
  • Abby Sweeney
  • Claire Sweeney
  • Corinne Sweeney
  • Malachi Sweeney
  • Beau Tiger
  • Betsy Tiger
  • Lauren Wood
  • Nathan Wood
  • Gwen Yeagley
  • Lindsey Yeagley
  • Scott Yeagley